Side hustle drama 'Take Out Girl' dispels the myth of the model minority
May 17, 2021
TAKE OUT GIRL is about a twenty-something girl Tera (Hedy Wong), who drops out of college to help her single mother run a struggling Chinese restaurant. Feeling imprisoned by poverty and a lack of options, Tera takes a dangerous job for a drug lord in an attempt to save her family.
The film is inspired by lead actress Hedy Wong’s real life, who brought the story to director Hisonni Johnson, and the two co-wrote the script.
“She had written the first draft and had spent a bunch of years trying to get the project off the ground but couldn't, because she couldn't find the right filmmaker to do it with the limited amount of funds the film had. Lorin Ly, who plays Tera's brother, had actually worked with me before and he was like, ‘I know a guy who can do this with no money and make it look like we had a ton of money.’ And she reached out to me!" says Johnson. "Before I met her, she had told me the premise and I was interested, but it wasn't until I actually met her and met her personality... It was like meeting the Godfather. I've never met somebody with such command; such an intimidation factor. And I was like, I think if she is as unique as I see her, the rest of the world's going to see her that way, too.”
Johnson signed on to the project as a co-writer, director, producer, and DP.
“I read through her draft about three times and I realized she wasn't the lead in it, and it was more docu-drama style. So I asked her if I could take a stab at doing a second draft. I started writing—and I would just write based off of what really stood out, what she put the most emphasis on. I also infused a lot of my life story, just so that as a director, there's no way I could ever forget the thematic importance. Whenever I got a little stuck, I would just call her up. We'd spend four or five hours on the phone and we just wouldn't stop brainstorming until we both were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, that, that, that!’ And then hang up. And then I'd run and write again and just keep repeating that process. We didn't move forward until we were like, ‘Yeah, that! That's the thing.’”
Knowing how he would also direct, shoot and edit the film informed Johnson's approach to writing the script.
“I'm thorough. It's the edit, it's the shot list, it's the shot size, the shot composition, it’s the props, it's the wardrobe… I build the pictures in my head, I can even see the camera movements based on what I wrote. I'm not writing the actual shots. I'm not saying, ‘we see’ or ‘we hear,’ things like that. I'm genuinely writing what she looks at, what she sees, how she moves. And with a film like Take Out Girl, that was clearly going to be a lot of movement. So, the script informed everything.”
Through their creative collaboration, Johnson and Wong found out not only how much the two of them had in common, but how much commonality and overlay there was between the Asian and Black communities.
“It was amazing to find out how our lives synchronized and then being in this period in time where—we have to even discuss—violence against Asians... The Asian community maybe not understanding the Black struggle, the Black [community] not really understanding the Asian struggle. We've grown such an understanding of one another through this story. That's what we hope Take Out Girl does. What I hope happens, is the Black community sees this film and goes, ‘That's our story, too. Oh, they're not just all crazy rich. Oh, they're not just model minorities that make us and the things we have to go through look bad.’ And we hope with the Asian-American community, this film is the start of making it a lot more acceptable to show the other facets of being Asian. The type that maybe didn't finish school, or the entrepreneurial spirit, the musician, the artist—whoever. We need to see those stories, too.”
While developing Take Out Girl, Hedy and I focused on our commonalities. We concentrated on our familial bonds, poverty, and the lack of upward economic mobility leading to criminality in minority communities. We put everything we had into crafting a universally relatable story without sacrificing the color of its roots, which is why we've maintained the Asian-American voice, experience, and authenticity. In turbulent political times such as now, Take Out Girl manages to demystify the narrative of "the other" and the divisive myth of "the model minority," which mainstream media has historically utilized to pit minorities against one another. We hope that Take Out Girl makes a positive contribution to America's social climate by provoking healthy conversations regarding this country's varying cultural fabrics and our shared struggles. We truly believe that diversity is a source for strength, not division. - Filmmakers Statement.
Written by: Melanie MarasMulti-ethnic and bi-cultural, Melanie is originally from Jakarta, Indonesia. Melanie is an award-winning writer, comic, and storyteller who performs all over the world. She has developed TV projects with HBOMax, Stage 13 (WB), and Universal. In 2018 she was named one of Indonesia’s Top 10 Young & Talented Stand-up Comedians. She is a multiple Moth StorySLAM winner. Her first play, KISS ME ON THE MOUTH, was directed by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis. Variety said the “contained, smart script exhibits plenty of wit, craft and, most of all, heart.” She is repped by Buchwald and Hansen Jacobson Teller & Hoberman. Find her online www.melaniemaras.com and @troublejones on instagram and twitter.